Japanese Book Review: そして、星の輝く夜がくる – 真山 仁

soshite_hoshi_no_kagayaku_yoru_ga_kuru(soshite, hoshi no kagayaku yoru ga kuru – Mayama Jin)

This book is about a teacher, Mr. Onodera, who experienced loss in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami he comes to the fictional Tohoku village, Toma, to fill in as a short term teacher and bring encouragement to the children. I chose to read this book because it was highly recommended on Self Taught Japanese where you can even read a translation of the beginning of the book. 

I can only imagine that writing a fiction book about such an emotional topic would be challenging. I think the main topic of this book is facing the difficulties encountered while trying to help people that have experienced a natural disaster. It shows the difference in how local and outsider teachers and local and outsider volunteers interact with the children and with the town.

Mr. Onodera works hard to help the children, but he realizes that he can’t become deeply involved without hurting anyone no matter how carefully he treads. However, he realizes is is worth it to make the effort.

I enjoyed the principle of Toma District 1 Elementary School as a character. He is laid back and almost seems lazy on the surface, but in the background he is fighting hard for the students and making things happen. He’s full of wisdom, giving guidance to Mr. Onodera, and he makes it possible for him to be able to help the kids without being run out of town for his brash tactics.

This was a relatively short book, and I was a bit disappointed that a particular story line was left unresolved. However I think the inability to resolve some situations may be part of the message that Mayama was trying to get across.

I found the Japanese language used in the book to be somewhat challenging for two reasons. First, there is a lot of description inferring how people feel and their motivations. These are abstract ideas and it can be challenging for me to pick up on them in the book as well as real life, but I enjoy the challenge and hope to learn from it.

The second difficulty is that Mr. Onodera and his former students are from Osaka, which means they speak in Osaka-ben. I didn’t find it too bad with a bit of familiarity with Osaka-ben and the help of some google searches when needed, but it did slow things down a bit for me.

Even though this is fiction, I think this book is valuable for providing a more personal account of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami than you could get from the news alone. Also, according to his wikipedia article, Mayama experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake so he has the background to write from Mr. Onodera’s perspective. This is only a small step, but reading this book may help in understanding how to process the aftermath of a disaster as either an insider or an outsider.

4 thoughts on “Japanese Book Review: そして、星の輝く夜がくる – 真山 仁”

  1. Nice review! I’m glad you enjoyed the book (:

    I agree with you that the plot point(s) which were not resolved were quite frustrating, but as you said that might have been intentional…

    I’m reading a really interesting book now that has super difficult Japanese. Hoping to finish it in a month or two and then I’ll put out a review. What are you reading next?

  2. Thanks for taking a look at my review and for recommending the book. I look forward to see what you’ve been reading!

    I’m also reading something that’s pretty challenging right now. I picked up the first of 8 volumes of Miyamoto Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji about 13 years ago and could never get through the first few pages until now. I don’t have any experience with jidaigeki or anything like that, which is why it’s so challenging. So far it’s been more action packed than I expected, so it has been fun to read.

    1. Wow, sounds pretty difficult (: I generally have no idea what they are saying in jidageki movies!

      One of the only times I gave up after a few pages was “銀河鉄道の夜” which is sad cause I know it has a great story. That was a few years ago, so maybe I could tackle it now.

      I recently finished my difficult novel and just put up a review if you are interested:

      http://selftaughtjapanese.com/2016/07/19/japanese-novel-review-witch-of-the-library-図書館の魔女-by-daisuke-takada-高田-大介/

      1. I have seen the title, “銀河鉄道の夜” before, but I didn’t know what it was until I tried looking it up after your comment. It seems like it was an incomplete work, and there are multiple versions. One version is available for free from Aozora Bunko, which I have been into lately.

        It sounds pretty interesting, and I think I may give it a try in the future as well. You should try it again. It’s a nice feeling to finally be able to read something you couldn’t read before!

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